April 2013 Feature Volunteer
(This article, authored by LASO attorney Teresa Rendon, Esq., originally appeared in the Oklahoma County Bar Association's "Briefcase" and is used here with permission.)
This month’s pro bono attorney is well known to Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. (LASO), having been a volunteer legal assistant for the Farmworker Law Project 1991 to 1993 and then serving six years as LASO’s entitlements/benefits attorney. Currently, Gisele Perryman’s private practice focuses on social security disability, immigration, criminal misdemeanor defense and mediation.
A resident of Choctaw, Oklahoma, Gisele is the daughter of an American oil field worker and a Bolivian mother. Growing up, Perryman lived all over Latin America, including Brazil, Columbia, Peru and Chile. That’s why it’s no surprise that she has acquired native fluency in Spanish and conversational ability in the Portuguese language. Gisele’s language abilities and expertise have been the keys to her success in her fourteen years of practicing law and have now been called upon to further her efforts as mediator.
So far, Gisele has mediated two Legal Aid family law cases in which the parties were Spanish-speakers. In each case, significant progress was made in narrowing down the issues and getting the parties to work together toward a satisfactory goal. When asked how mediation could benefit the parties in a divorce case, Perryman observed, “Sometimes the parties just need to sit down and air their grievances and then get down to business of settling the case instead of having one or two days of trial. Not only are you saving the parties time and heartache, but you’re promoting judicial economy.”
To be part of the district court list of qualified mediators, 12 O.S. Sec. 1825 requires civil and commercial mediators to complete at least 24 hours of mediation training, observe a minimum of 2 mediation proceedings, and complete at least 6 hours of professional education every other year. Divorce and family law mediators must have 40 hours of training in family and divorce mediation, conduct at least 12 hours of mediation for 3 separate families and have 6 hours of continuing education every other year. Gisele has completed the training requirements for both types of mediation and is working on acquiring practical experience. Her need of experience and Legal Aid’s need for bilingual mediators created a proverbial match made in heaven.
As a mediator, Gisele believes that she must direct the scope of mediation instead of just letting the parties wander all over the place, “I listen to them and let them tell me their side of the story. What is satisfying is getting them to agree to something and opening up lines of communication with each other. The hardest situation is when the parties are just not ready even if they have come in good faith.” When asked why she volunteered for Legal Aid, Gisele offered the following, “I get the satisfaction of helping someone who could not afford mediation. I would encourage all Oklahoma lawyers to try mediating, if they have the certification. It’s a great way to fulfill your ethical duty to render pro bono services without committing to representing a client in a protracted case.”
Way to go, Gisele, Legal Aid thanks you for your service!